Campus: CSU, Chico -- June 08, 2001

CSU, Chico Takes Fresh Approach, Wins National High-Mileage Car Competition

Using an unprecedented strategy in their first year competing, California State University, Chico engineering students won a prestigious national contest for who can design the highest mileage vehicle.

CSU, Chico bested 25 other colleges, universities and high schools to win the Society of Automotive Engineers Supermileage Competition held June 1-2 at the Eaton Corporation Proving Grounds in Marshall, Mich.

The team's vehicle reached 640 miles per gallon, winning the college and overall competition. Homestead High School from Michigan finished second overall, at 603 mpg, and UC Berkeley finished third in the college division at 527 mpg.

Seven mechanical engineering students from the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology formed the team that built the vehicle as a senior project during the 2000-2001 academic year: Matthew Charles, Michael DeMercurio, Allana Kearney, Drew Lander, Frank Lucido, Michael Meteer and Tou Vang.

Team members are gathering tomorrow, June 8, at 11 a.m. in front O'Connell Hall to discuss the victory and show off the vehicle to the media and public.

All vehicles in the competition must have three wheels and use a two-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine. Competitors also must maintain at least 15 miles per hour over a 6-lap, 1.3-mile oval. The driver must weigh at least 130 pounds and be enclosed in the vehicle and separated from the wheels and drive train.

The CSU, Chico team members employed a strategy different from all other entering schools to win the competition their first time out. While other vehicles turned their engines off and on and coasted part of the course to increase mileage, the CSU, Chico vehicle maintained a higher, constant speed that resulted in better mileage overall.

"We designed our car with the engine running--real-world driving--and found it ran more efficiently at a higher speed than 15 mph," said team member Meteer. "Our first time on the track we ran at 40 mph, and the other teams thought we were showing off. We didn't know the accepted strategy was to coast, and we benefited by not doing the same thing."

Meteer said the CSU, Chico team used a heavily modified engine, different clutch and active suspension that made its vehicle perform better than its competitors.

"Our students took a completely different approach by being innovative and creative," said Mike Ward, chair of the mechanical engineering department. "They came up with a design that blew everybody away."

Ken Derucher, dean of the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology, said, "Our faculty are noted for application-oriented teaching and research. The students love this approach in the classroom, and when they apply it, they consistently win regional and national competitions."

In recent years, CSU, Chico engineering students have won regional and national competitions in areas such as bridge building, robot design, manufacturing design and other vehicle contests.

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